If you have a penchant for historical buildings and castles are your thing, then Basilicata may be the region for you, as it is home to some magnificent buildings created by the Normans, the Bourbons and the Anjou. Many of them are in ruins, but still maintain a timeless charm. However, it is to those kept in good conditions, those for which time seems not to have passed, that we’ll dedicate the next few lines.
The castle of Lagopesole is perhaps the most mysterious castle in the region, and one of the last castles built by Frederick II of Swabia, in the XIII century. The emperor used it for hunting and as a fortress. The Norman castle is situated in Avigliano, Potenza, and it is currently managed by the State; it has a parallelepiped shape with some towers on the corners and two other towers flanking the gate.
Today you can visit the Salone dell’Imperatore, the Emperor’s room, on the first floor, the courtyard and the chapel.
The Word of Frederick II
As any real castle, Lagopesole is surrounded by ghostly legends: a girl is said to walk its corridors at night, crying desperately. It is Elena, wife of Manfred of Swabia, once emperor of Sicily and son of Frederick II. He died in the Battle of Benevento, at the hand of the Anjou. Elena, inconsolable, returns to the castle where the young couple had been happy and cries the loss of her lover eternally. Manfred himself is said to wander through the castle’s lands, riding his white horse.
Castello di Melfi
This is the most famous castle in the area. It was built for military purposes by the Normans, and later enlarged by both the Swabians and Anjou.
The castle, situated in Melfi, is an irregular rectangle whose access is possible through the crossing of a stone bridge over a moat. You can visit the stables, the courtyards of Stallaggio and Mortorio, with Anjou origins, the Sala del Trono and the Sala degli Armigeri. A string of important historical events took place within its walls throughout the centuries: the castle of Melfi has witnessed four papal councils, the issuing of the Constitutiones Augustales and the FIrst Crusade (1096-1099), was banned from here.
Today the castle hosts the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the National Archaeological Museum.
Castello di Brienza
This castle is situated, as the name tells, in Brienza and it was probably enlarged from an original Anjou fortress. It is a cylindrical tower overlooking the Medieval borgo and the church of San Michele Arcangelo. A legend tells that the castle should have had 365 rooms, one for each day of the year, but that a secret one was hidden within its walls. Whoever was able to find the 366th room would have become rich. However, because of an earthquake in 1980, the castle suffered some consequences: one of the towers collapsed and some other parts cracked.
Enjoy the castle of Brienza and the medieval borough in this series of beautiful photos.
Castello di Miglionico
This castle is situated in Matera, it has a square plant with six cylindrical towers and it dates back to the Norman-Swabian age. The castle is better known as the Castello del Malconsiglio and it is particularly famous because it hosted the congiura dei baroni, a revolutionary movement born mainly in Basilicata as a reaction to the Aragons, who had taken the throne in Naples. La Congiura dei Baroni ended up with a bloody massacre in the largest room on the first floor of the castle.
The castle keeps some ruins of the old entrance and many of its rooms have been restored to their ancient splendor: the Sala del Malconsiglio and the Sala della Stella are particularly beautiful. The latter, whose name, stella, “star”, comes from the shape of its ceiling, used to have a very limited access, as gold, rare books and coins were treasured there. It is said that the lords of the castle would spend their first wedding night in the Sala della Stella’ s ante room, and that the bride would receive a jewel from the sala the following morning.
By Anna de Filippo
Edited by Francesca Bezzone